LOS ANGELES — Unified Grocers here said the slide in the general economy resulted in lower earnings and sales for the fiscal year that ended Oct. 3.
Net income declined 15.1% to $14.8 million, while sales fell 1.3% to $4.05 billion, despite an extra week in the year, which added $79 million to the total.
Unified said the sales decrease resulted primarily from a shift in customer demand toward lower-cost items and the shift during the year of the former Brown & Cole chain in the Seattle area to another wholesaler.
On a more positive note, Unified reduced debt by $25 million during the year and increased the stock price of its members' shares by 6%, Al Plamann, president and chief executive officer, pointed out.
Members also opened 47 new stores during the year, he said — “a remarkable feat, given that it may very well have been the worst economic environment since the Great Depression.”
While results in the prior year were positively impacted by inventory holding gains resulting from an unusually high level of food inflation, that trend reversed itself in 2009, the company noted.
Further, at the beginning of 2009, former members of Associated Grocers, Seattle, become members of Unified, qualifying them for more favorable member pricing while reducing the company's gross margin.
“Looking ahead, we believe the economy will only make slight improvements in 2010 and our industry will continue to be challenged to find ways to achieve extraordinary results,” Plamann said.
“At the same time we believe there are a number of interesting and unique opportunities in the marketplace that hold great promise for both Unified and our independent retailers, and we hope to capitalize on those opportunities in the near future.” He did not elaborate.
* FISCAL 2008 WAS A 52-WEEK YEAR.